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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 804


Mr THISTLETHWAITE (Kingsford Smith) (19:50): For many people across the country, the weekend just gone was almost too hot to handle. I wish to pay tribute to the many volunteer services, in particular rural fire services, paid fire brigades, police, ambulance and hospital staff, who are dealing with record heatwaves. Before this week, New South Wales had never experienced a February day above 42 degrees. That record was smashed on Friday, before Sydney's average temperatures reached 44 degrees on Saturday. According to the Climate Reanalyzer website, New South Wales and other parts of eastern Australia were the hottest places in the world on Saturday, and it was not much better for other states. On Sunday, four Queensland towns had their hottest day since records began, as Toowoomba reached 40 degrees and Birdsville hit 45.5 degrees. South Australia was no better, hitting 40 degrees, with 48.2 degrees in Renmark.

Globally, 2016 was the hottest year on record. The last decade has been warmer than any other. Yet the Turnbull government has restated its commitment to more investment in coal-fired power stations—after recently announcing that it would consider taking money from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. I ask: how many climate records need to be broken before this government realises that climate change is happening? How many warnings do scientists and economists need to give this government before they take the issue of action on climate change seriously?

This policy shift from the government is alarming and, if implemented, could potentially prove disastrous for our children's future. Thankfully, the major energy investors and suppliers are not buying it, with groups such as the Australian Energy Council, the electricity generators' own lobby group, labelling new coal-fired power plants 'uninvestable'.

The New South Wales government has also refused to share the Turnbull government's disdain for renewable energy, with the New South Wales Minister for Energy and Utilities, Don Harwin, thanking all New South Wales electricity generators—gas, coal, hydro, wind and solar—for each playing their part during the recent heatwave. Even the 350,000 people with solar panels on their roofs warranted a thanks.

This government's policy of attacking the renewable energy target, of lying about disruptions to power in South Australia in the wake of storms—

The SPEAKER: The member for Kingsford Smith will just withdraw that unparliamentary term. He knows full well—

Mr THISTLETHWAITE: I withdraw. This government's misrepresentations about disruptions to power supply in South Australia in the wake of storms, its refusal to endorse wind and solar, its directing of funds away from wind and solar, and its dream of new coal-fired power plants say everything about this government's wrong priorities and lack of consideration for future generations and serve as a reminder of this Prime Minister's complete abandonment of his values and principles. The Australian people are now asking, 'What does this Prime Minister stand for?' He used to be the most forceful and eloquent advocate for action on climate change, for carbon pricing and for renewable energy. He is now the wilting flower of the parliament when it comes to action on climate change. He was once known as a conviction politician. It is now crystal clear that this Prime Minister stands for nothing except whatever will placate the radical right wing of his party and ensure that he keeps his job for a little longer.

Climate change is impacting our lives and our economy just as climate scientists have been warning. The fire season is extending. Extreme weather events are getting more and more frequent. The Great Barrier Reef is dying. In recent years we have seen the frequency of some of these events increasing. For these reasons, there is a desperate need for a clear plan, leadership and action, now more than ever. Labor have that plan. Labor will take action on climate change because we have listened to the experts. We take their warnings seriously. We will institute an emissions trading scheme. We will institute new vehicle emissions standards. We will institute a separate baseline-and-credit ETS for the electricity system. We will undertake an electricity market modernisation review. We will ensure that carbon is captured on the land and put a trigger in the federal legislation. That is a plan for real action on climate change.